When I get a first phone call from a potential client, there is usually a pressing reason.  They need help NOW. They can’t make this month’s bills, they are receiving threatening phone calls, or the Sheriff has been to the house to enforce a Writ of Execution. The Automatic Stay in bankruptcy halts the threats.

Upon Filing

Filing bankruptcy provides immediate relief. Upon filing bankruptcy, the court issues an “automatic stay.” This freezes all creditors in their attempt to collect on a debt. They can’t call you, send you mail, or otherwise attempt to enforce their rights against you. If they do, you and your attorney can file a violation of stay action against the creditor, or the collector they have employed.

Foreclosure Proceedings

If you are facing a foreclosure proceeding, the automatic stay freezes this as well. Your mortgage lender can petition the court to remove the automatic stay but that takes time. During this allotment of time, you can either get caught up on payments, work out a loan modification, or decide to surrender the property as part of the bankruptcy.

Vehicles

Most people I speak to daily are afraid of losing their vehicle. It’s a necessary part of life that we need to function normally. If you are behind on vehicle payments and file a petition in bankruptcy, the bank is prevented from trying to take your car and must treat you in accordance with the bankruptcy code.

Wage Garnishments

In North Carolina, wage garnishment requirements are strict but creditors do sometimes have the right to garnish your wages to collect on a debt supported by a judgment against you. In most cases, the automatic stay will stop wage garnishments. You can potentially recover funds taken prior to filing the bankruptcy; your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney will need to know specifics in order to determine this.

Renters and Utilities

An automatic stay will also give you some breathing room as a renter who is about to be evicted. While it depends on what part of the eviction process you are in, if you reach out to your attorney in time and file, your filing will buy you some time to remain in the home and plan your next move. Even utility companies are treated as creditors and must abide by the automatic stay—you and your family will be warm at night.

You have more control over your situation than you may know. By speaking with a Charlotte bankruptcy attorney you can get peace of mind about your options, work together to maximize the benefits of filing a bankruptcy and take swift action to dramatically change your life for the better.

Reach out today. Email me HERE or call 704.749.7747 to speak directly with me. I’m here to help.

In a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, deficiency judgments can be eliminated.

I spoke with a client today who is considering filing bankruptcy in Charlotte. We discussed both her inability to balance her budget on a monthly basis, as well as additional creditors who have obtained judgments against her. One situation she is facing is leftover from a foreclosure—the bank sold the property and the sale did not satisfy their loan. As a result, the bank obtained a deficiency judgment against the client for the remainder they were owed. Great news– if she files bankruptcy, the bankruptcy will eliminate the personal liability for this debt.

Liens May Remain On 2nd Properties After Bankruptcy

If a client owns two pieces of property and one is foreclosed upon, it is important to file bankruptcy prior to the lender/creditor obtaining a deficiency judgment. The reason is that deficiency judgment related to the 1st property will ‘attach’ to the 2nd property owned by the client.

If the bankruptcy is filed before the deficiency judgment is entered, all liability for the debt is discharged. If the bankruptcy is filed after the judgment is entered, even though the personal liability for the debt is discharged, the lien may still exist as to the 2nd property. An attorney can help you wade through the law and your options.

When In Doubt, Make A Call

If you are getting notices about a lawsuit filed against you, or receive other communication about a lawsuit, don’t delay. By contacting a Charlotte bankruptcy attorney now, you can take action that will have very tangible effects on you and your family going forward. Information is free—call an attorney!

You can reach me HERE by email, or at 704.749.7747 at any time. I’m here to help.

If you receive a Writ of Execution, it means a creditor is attempting to seize your assets. Take a deep breath, you still have options. Filing bankruptcy is one of them. The key is acting quickly.

Before The Writ of Execution

If a creditor files a lawsuit against you to collect on a debt, you can attempt to defend that claim against you, or you can do nothing in response. If you defend yourself and lose, the creditor obtains a judgment against you. If you do nothing, the creditor will typically get a summary judgment which has the same effect—the creditor wins the lawsuit.

After obtaining a judgment, the creditor will attempt to use the judgment to force a collection on the debt from you. The first notice you will get will be a Motion To Exempt Property. This form gives you an opportunity to list and PROTECT property from the creditor. Your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney can explain the form and assist you in filing it. Whether you file it with a bankruptcy attorney or on your own, be sure to meet the 20 day timeframe for responding.

The creditor’s lawyers will then request a Writ of Execution from the judge. This is what causes the Sheriff to show up at your door. I know this is frightening but you still have options!

Communicate With The Sheriff

It is important that you communicate with the Sheriff. You can make a request of the Sheriff for more time to settle with the creditor or pay them. You can also tell the Sheriff that you are filing a bankruptcy and ask for an extension to get your Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition filed. The Sheriff may or may not grant you an extension but the key is asking.

Call Your Charlotte Bankruptcy Lawyer

Next, if you haven’t done so already, call your Charlotte bankruptcy lawyer. Together, you can sort through your options. Your bankruptcy attorney will know how much time remains to file a bankruptcy petition to stop the collection process. Your attorney will also help you decide which option is best and set a plan in place for taking action.

If you are getting notices regarding a civil summons, a judgment, a motion to exempt property or a writ of execution call your attorney now. Waiting only limits your options. The call is free and Charlotte bankruptcy attorneys are understanding of the urgency and they are here to help. Email me HERE or call 704.749.7747 to discuss your situation today and take steps to exercise your rights.

Your creditors will be notified that you have filed either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy when the court sends notice to them. This is done shortly after you or your attorney files your bankruptcy petition. The notice from the court puts the creditor on alert, gives them a chance to respond to the bankruptcy filing (most don’t) and most importantly stops all attempts at collecting on the debt.

Can I Make The Calls Stop Sooner?

You will typically begin working with a lawyer a few weeks or a month before you file. Because of this, you have the option of telling your creditors that you are going to file bankruptcy wel before you file. The purpose of telling them you plan to file is to get them to stop calling. While there are a few exceptions, I give my clients basic information to convey to the creditors including my name and phone number. I then ask my clients to politely request that the creditor stop attempting to collect from my clients and call me instead. This usually puts an end to collection attempts even before the bankruptcy is filed.

The practical result here is while you may not receive your discharge in bankruptcy in a Chapter 7 for quite some time, you can get the personal relief from day one—by sending your creditors my way. I will gladly communicate with them on your behalf. It’s the least I can do for you.

Additionally, for those creditors who continue to attempt to collect on the debt from you even after you file bankruptcy, I’ll ask that you write down the name of the person contacting you, the time and date they contacted you, and the general content of the call. If creditors refuse to meet your requests, there are options we can discuss to enforce the rules around collection attempts.

Relief is literally a phone call away. I’m here to help. Email me HERE or call 704.749.7747 to discuss your options.

My Charlotte bankruptcy clients and I talk about all of their options. This includes options outside of bankruptcy. I feel my job as an attorney is to assist the client in making the best decision for them, and understanding why bankruptcy works is part of that. When I believe a client should consider a bankruptcy, we usually discuss one or more of the items below.

Why Bankruptcy? Because You’ve Suffered Long Enough

Why bankruptcy? This is an important point. Bankruptcy is an option provided to us by the bankruptcy code in the form of a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 option. There should be no more guilt associated with considering these options than there is associated with taking an allowable deduction on your taxes—another item sanctioned by law. Most of my clients have already gone beyond what a reasonable person would endure, prior to considering bankruptcy. I only wish I could get to them earlier, so they could experience the relief bankruptcy provides sooner rather than later.

Treat Your Finances Like A Business

Credit card companies and banks take a gamble on us when they extend us credit. They collect their interest up front typically, and charge an interest rate reflective of the risk. If you’ve been paying interest only for months or even years on a credit card, you’ve been a great business investment for them. Now, it’s time to consider your own financial health. Leave emotions out of it, the same way credit card companies do. Exercise your rights under the law, just as they do. Bankruptcy is your right. The result is renewed financial freedom.

You Deserve Recovery

My clients are hard-working people who tend to be humble. They have a hard time deciding that they deserve the relief that bankruptcy provides. It’s my job to make them feel comfortable seeking that relief. And to get them excited about the road ahead. Sharing in that excitement is one of the best parts of my practice. You deserve a peaceful life, including financial serenity. Bankruptcy can provide that. After you file bankruptcy, the rest is up to you, but with smart choices you can begin building financial stability again.

Bankruptcy Trumps Other Options

Often clients come to me in crisis. They are facing a foreclosure, or a creditor has come calling. While there are other options which may fend off the current emergency, quite often bankruptcy will accomplish the same goal and provide extreme relief from other debt including medical bills, credit cards and old tax liens.

If you’re reading this, you’re educating yourself. If you want to find out more, give me a call and we can discuss your situation. I enjoy helping people understand the options. I can be emailed here or you can reach me at 704.749.7747.

Debt is stressful. It becomes overwhelming when it depletes our savings and retirement funds. My clients try so hard to meet their financial responsibilities, that they often deplete not only their savings but also their retirement accounts. All of this before realizing that bankruptcy is the way out.

There’s a better way. Clients who deplete their retirement accounts and IRA accounts to stay afloat for a few more months are often surprised to find out that those funds are protected from creditors in bankruptcy. Yes, that’s right. The funds you keep in a 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or other types of retirement accounts are fully exempt under North Carolina law.  The same is true for many life insurance policies, annuities, and pensions.  This means that your creditors cannot touch these exempt funds whether you file a bankruptcy case or not.

If you are at the point where you are considering reaching into retirement funds to keep making payments on credit cards and other debt, you should speak to a lawyer today. Filing bankruptcy now relieves the financial pressure and you don’t trade your hard-earned retirement accounts in on creditors who have already made a profit off of you.

Reach Out Today!

A conversation with a Charlotte bankruptcy lawyer can provide a lot of clarity. The lawyer’s job is to know the law but also to be the calm during a storm. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you realistically assess your options and if the timing is right, you may even save your retirement in the process.

Email me here or call me at 704.749.7747 to discuss your situation. I’m here to listen and to help you understand the options. Or, if you’d like, complete this 5 minute online evaluation and I will reach out to you with some options.

I had a conversation with a client today about this very issue. While married bankruptcy clients have the ability to file solely or jointly, there are considerations which affect that choice. The primary consideration is usually protecting the non-filing spouse’s credit. The second consideration is usually protecting property owned by the non-filing spouse. Lastly, one spouse may have more income than the other and clients want to know how this affects their ability to file.

Non-filing Spouse’s Credit

The credit score of a non-filing spouse is generally not affected when one spouse files bankruptcy. One exception would be where you have co-signed for debt together. In that case, there may be a temporary lowering of the non-filing spouse’s credit score. You will not know the exact effect on the score until after filing. It is important to determine whose name is on which debt, prior to filing. Your Charlotte bankruptcy attorney will assist with that.

Protecting Property in Bankruptcy

If one spouse files bankruptcy and another does not, property owned solely by the non-filing spouse will often be protected from creditors in the bankruptcy. If the property was recently transferred out of the filing spouse’s name into the non-filing spouse’s name, the result may change. In these instances, the court examines how long ago the transfer was made and the reasons behind the transfer. There are some instances where the court will ‘undo’ the transfer for the purpose of determining whether you qualify for bankruptcy. With careful planning, your filing can survive this.

Non-Filing Spouse’s Income

Even if a married person files for bankruptcy without their spouse, the income earned by the non-filing spouse must be included in the means test calculation. The bankruptcy code requires this to be sure the contributions of the non-filing spouse to household expenses and the care of dependents (kids, grandma) are being considered. This is nothing to fear, and it makes sense. Remember, the court is trying to get an accurate picture of what your income to expense ratio looks like on a monthly basis. If you and your spouse are having trouble making your monthly bills with your combined income, you will probably still qualify for filing by yourself.

If you would like to speak to an attorney today about your individual situation, please call me at 704.749.7747. I’d be happy to explain your options. Information is free and I encourage you to take advantage of it– a phone call is often the first step toward freedom. You can also email me here.

Before a bankruptcy or during it, your creditors may encourage you to reaffirm your debt with them. When you reaffirm a debt, you are carving that debt out from the bankruptcy and re-obligating yourself with the creditor. The debt will survive the bankruptcy. Reaffirmation requires that you sign a new contract with that creditor, which means that if you fail to pay that debt in the future, after the bankruptcy, the creditor can sue you or come after the property.

The General Rule

Generally speaking, it’s not a good idea to reaffirm a debt in bankruptcy. If the debt is a bad deal before the bankruptcy, it’s going to be a bad deal after the bankruptcy. Cars are the noted exception to this rule, but even car companies do not always require a reaffirmation agreement be signed.

It’s understandable that most of us want to keep our car in a bankruptcy. Every car company is different when it comes to reaffirmation. Honda will typically allow you to keep the car as long as you keep making payments. Ford will require a reaffirmation agreement. Your bankruptcy attorney can tell you whether you can keep your car in bankruptcy which companies require reaffirmation, and how best to negotiate the process.

Making a Practical Decision

If you want to file bankruptcy and the only way to keep the property in question is to reaffirm the debt, AND you feel comfortable that you can make the monthly payment, there is not much risk in reaffirmation. It is advisable to have your attorney attempt to negotiate the best terms for you prior to signing—the lender is in a bad position here and often is willing to listen to an argument that the balance on the loan should be lowered.

Getting Available Help

Financial decisions can be confusing. The good news is you have help in the many bankruptcy attorneys in your area. They are informed and eager to help you consider the options. If you are in or near Charlotte and would like to speak with me about your options regarding a vehicle or any other property or debt, please email me or call 704.749.7747 to talk to me today.

Attorneys who look past strategies to identify the underlying needs of their clients, strengthen relationships in the moment and generate creative solutions for their clients and their practice. I’ve learned to do this in my Charlotte bankruptcy practice, to great results. When we think about needs, we tend to think about things like money, time, a new car. The truth is, those items are strategies that we use to get our true underlying needs met. Money is a strategy that meets our need for stability. Time is a strategy that meets our need for relaxation or tranquility. A new car may meet our need for safety or accomplishment.  In this way, strategies are distinguishable from needs. As lawyers, our job is to meet the needs of clients. Additionally, we have our own needs which need to be met. A skilled and creative lawyer realizes there is usually more than one strategy available to get all of the underlying needs met.

Some time ago, my six year old daughter was acting out on a daily basis. She wouldn’t eat her food, she was talking back to both me and my wife, she took up the hobby of hitting her little sister on the head with heavy objects. Parents, you know the drill. I decided to increase the number of minutes she spent in time out, any time she acted out. I think at one point we got up to 20 minutes a time, in time out. It wasn’t working. I became a disciplinarian, as I saw this as a struggle for authority and respect. And I was losing the war.

My wife is a kindergarten teacher. She had the idea to hang a “Responsibility Chart” on our daughter’s bedroom door. I laughed at this idea. This child needed discipline, not coddling! That being said, I was out of ideas so I caved in to the Responsibility Chart. The chart had five rows and seven columns. The rows were chores or requests like the ones mentioned above. The columns were days of the week. Within 48 hours, our child’s behavior did a complete 180. And each night, she dragged us upstairs to go through the chart, placing a magnet in each box where she had successfully completed the chore. Notice that the requested behavior from us had not changed. What had changed was our strategy for getting our needs met. And she responded very well to it. Why? Because her needs were being met. The need for control, appreciation, acknowledgement—so many things are packed into a family gathering around a responsibility chart.

When you are facing your next difficult or frustrating client conversation, or when you are sitting down to overcome the latest challenge your practice faces, think about needs. Distinguish them from strategies. A client who is expressing frustration is engaging in a strategy. Perhaps they are requesting you get back to them sooner, or move things along faster. Take a guess at the underlying need. Perhaps the client has a need to feel understood. Or maybe to have the urgency of their situation appreciated. Make an attempt to reflect needs in the conversation and see what kind of response you get. My experience is you will be pleased. You and the client will re-connect in the moment. And once the underlying needs are identified, you can go about offering up strategies for meeting those needs—strategies which work for you and the client both.

Marshall Rosenberg is a wonderful contributor to the discussion of needs, and has a list of needs here http://www.cnvc.org/Training/needs-inventory. It’s a great reference tool for situations and behavior which at first you find perplexing. Identify the needs, speak to the needs, devise strategies to get the needs met. The incident I described above with our daughter took place two years ago. The Responsibility Chart is rarely in use but it still hangs on the back of our daughter’s door. The other night I asked her about it. “What did you like about using that responsibility chart?” I asked. She looked at me, smiled, and said “Oh, I don’t know, dad. It was a job well done.”

When choosing a bankruptcy attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina, there are a few factors to consider. Your attorney should be available, educated, and concerned with putting your needs above all else. If you find a bankruptcy attorney who you believe meets this profile– and whose fees are reasonable– you should have a successful relationship that leads to financial freedom.

Working with your bankruptcy attorney and their office should be easy. While preparing to file bankruptcy does require gathering a lot of information, the attorney should assist you in getting clarity around exactly what they will need to move forward. When you hit a road bump in obtaining information or understanding any step in the process, the attorney should be there to explain and provide guidance. I pride myself on being involved every step of the way with my clients.

Please use the posts on this website to become more familiar with some of your options in bankruptcy. That is why this website exists– to help you. I also hope it will give you a feel for what it would be like to work with me and my office. If you want to get a sense for whether you qualify for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, send us an email or complete the bankruptcy evaluation on the website. Someone from our office will be in touch shortly with answers.

If you’d like to speak with someone today, call 704.749.7747. I’m here to help.